by Mike Ivcic
It was another rough week, especially as Michigan choked away the Big Ten’s chance at a marquee matchup by failing to close out a 10-point lead in State College. My 2-5 record once again reflects a struggle with handling some of the bigger spreads that occur in college football, but I do have one thing to hang my hat on from last week – picking Oregon 45, Washington 24. Often times we prognosticators get close with scores, but it’s rare we actually nail them perfectly, so when we do – party!
TCU @ 21) Oklahoma State
Saturday, 12:00pm, FOX
Line: Oklahoma State by 7.5
Consider this a litmus test for the Cowboys in their quest for a Big 12 title. In what seems to be a wide open conference race, many are wondering if Oklahoma State can hang with the better teams in the conference. Before they get Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma, though, they have to determine which is real Ok St – the team that handled Kansas State at home or the team that looked sloppy and uninspired at West Virginia. Remember, the Horned Frogs were ranked in the preseason and haven’t allowed more than 20 points since the opening week loss to LSU, despite their 3-3 record. It’ll be tough for TCU to overcome two conference losses without the benefit of a conference championship game, but three would all but end that dream entirely, and I just can’t say that I trust the Cowboys, even at home, to beat a talented and edgy TCU team.
Pick: TCU 27, Oklahoma State 20
22) Florida @ 14) Missouri
Saturday, 12:21pm, ESPN3
Line: Florida by 3
If you wanted proof of SEC bias, look no further than a case study of Florida and Michigan. The Wolverines lost their first game of the year on the road in four overtimes to a team that, while unranked, plays in one of the toughest venues for visitors in the entire country. Florida, meanwhile, lost their second game of the year (note: their first loss was to a then-unranked Miami team) while scoring just six total points. Both teams are really pretty devoid of any big wins, so why did Florida drop 5 spots and Michigan drop 10? I just don’t think the Gators are a very good team, and with Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida State still on the docket following this game, it’s conceivable to see Will Muschamp’s crew finish the year 6-6 – and probably ranked #24 because, after all, they play in the SEC. Yes, James Franklin is hurt – a huge loss of Missouri – but after a momentous win on the road last week, I don’t see the Tigers suffering a let-down here.
Pick: Missouri 27, Florida 17
9) UCLA @ 13) Stanford
Saturday, 3:30pm, ABC
Line: Stanford by 6
The Pac-12 lost their chance at a big-time matchup of undefeated teams when Utah stunned the Cardinal last week, but that doesn’t really diminish the importance of this game in the conference picture. Stanford still has a totally legitimate chance to win the North, because a win over Oregon – and barring any further loss – gives the Cardinal the tiebreaker over the Ducks and a berth in the conference championship game. If, however, the Bruins win this one, that would force Stanford to beat Oregon and hope another team did the same, and I just don’t see that happening. UCLA, meanwhile, has a leg up on Arizona State (thanks, ironically, to Stanford) but would fall back into a tie in the South with a loss here. That would set up a tremendously entertaining game in Los Angeles on November 23, a game UCLA would love to enter with a lead as opposed to tied. After all of that, though, there’s the actual game, one that features the 7th-ranked Bruins offense trying to outscore Stanford in Palo Alto. I would expect a lot of points on the board, but ultimately I think the home crowd helps Stanford prevail in this one.
Pick: Stanford 41, UCLA 37
24) Auburn @ 7) Texas A&M
Saturday, 3:30pm, CBS
Line: Texas A&M by 12.5
This will be the only game in the entire column where I take the favorite to cover the spread. In fact, not to give away the future picks, but this is only one of two games (see above) where I’m even taking the favorite to win. Why? Well, for starters, I just don’t think Auburn is that good. The Tigers are hanging their hat on a win over Mississippi – the same Mississippi that’s 3-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. Why is that still considered a “signature” win? Meanwhile A&M has put up 41 points or more every game this season and came within one touchdown of a second straight victory over the two-time national champions. I think Manziel has a field day and the Aggies win this one going away.
Pick: Texas A&M 45, Auburn 20
20) Washington@ Arizona State
Saturday, 6:00pm, Pac-12
Line: Arizona State by 3
Four teams have gotten most of the ink in the Pac-12 this season – Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and Washington – but it’s the fifth team that could provide the biggest shakeup in the conference. The Sun Devils have the nation’s 9th-ranked passing offense and have put up some big numbers this season, which means they could combine with the Huskies to break the scoreboard in Tempe if both teams hold true to form. The difference could be the Washington defense, which has to be hurting a bit after allowing 31 points to Stanford and 45 points to Oregon in the last two weeks – both losses. A once-promising season could enter full derailment if Washington can’t go to the desert and come out with a win, which is why I think the Huskies will play like the more desperate team and knock off the Sun Devils.
Pick: Washington 27, Arizona State 24
5) Florida State @ 3) Clemson
Saturday, 8:00pm, ESPN
Line: Florida State by 3
Forget the SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, or any other game you want to throw at me, because this is the game of the year to this point. Yes, both teams have some very difficult games still remaining – the Seminoles host Miami and visit Florida, while the Tigers go to Maryland and South Carolina. Still, the winner here is almost certainly ranked in the top 3 of this week’s poll and instantly inserts themselves into the “Alabama-Oregon-Ohio State” conversation. Everyone has been tentative about including one or both of these teams into that discussion specifically because of this matchup. Both clubs can score, but the Seminoles seem to have a better defense and thus why they’re considered a road favorite. Still, there’s something about Taj Boyd, Sammy Watkins and this specific Clemson team that, combined with home field advantage, makes me believe this really could be the year they find their way to the BCS top two.
Pick: Clemson 34, Florida State 30
USC @ Notre Dame
Saturday, 7:30pm, NBC
Line: Notre Dame by 3
USC is a team in transition – they were already that before they fired Lane Kiffin. They have been recruiting well, but those recruits were expected to contribute immediately and that’s just not a recipe for success for a college program. Most teams win on the backs of seniors and juniors – see Notre Dame in 2012. Trojan coach Ed Orgeron now has the chance to score himself a signature win early on in his tenure, going on the road in front of a national audience to one of the most storied programs in the country. Yes, the Irish are a little down after last year, but I think USC comes into this game extremely motivated and pulls off the big upset.
Pick: USC 28, Notre Dame 24
Last Week: 3-4 straight up, 2-5 against spread
Season: 35-14 straight up, 17-31-1 against spread
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